Social Media – What’s Now and What’s Next – 4As Transformation

Social Media – What’s Now and What’s Next – 4As Transformation

Social media has certainly evolved in the past 10 years -- and the ways in which we manage it have evolved too.

This was the topic of my presentation at 4As Transformation in Los Angeles, which kicked off with Management Practitioners Forum this weekend. This is an in-depth day for agency leaders covering topics ranging from women in creative leadership, pricing, new agency models and methodologies and more.

Social media is here to stay

Social media can no longer be seen as a passing fad – 40% of the world’s population use social platforms, a number that is only continuing to grow. It has changed the way we connect, communicate, organize, protest, buy, share, do business and behave.

Social channels have also evolved. They document the here and now rather than the curated and perfect, and content is shifting to an ephemeral world where messages sent one to one, or one to few disappear within 24 hours. Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and WhatsApp are the next growth area in the space - 80% of smartphone users will be using at least one in the next 18 months.  Live-streaming is no longer a spotty experience given the power of the devices we all hold in our pockets; social networks are experimenting with monetization of streams and original content deals. AI, celebrity influencers, advocates, measurement and the politicization of social channels are all other important shifts too, when it comes to social media in 2017.

Agency management of platforms has changed

How agencies manage social has shifted in line with the platforms. We have moved from social media gurus, through branded standalone departments to a world of integrated social thinkers. Operating systems and teams around a brand ensure social is at the heart of all work; strong platform partnerships allow for big social-first ideas and ‘t-shaped’ thinkers, who can go deep on social but who understand the rest of the agency landscape all help to deliver on this vision.

What makes great social?

Great social work today needs to make meaningful impact and connect to crowdculture, as the Fearless Girl did when she arrived just before International Women’s Day, sparking a fearless movement of her own. It should use the technologies around us, such as AI, which is powering Starbucks next generation of social customer care on Twitter.

It should give consumers a reason to tune in to live content, as brands including the New York Lottery have discovered with playful activations on Facebook Live. It should live its DNA through and through on social, as Denny’s and Netflix do effortlessly and amusingly. It should make use of the community around it; Glossier shows us how integrated this can be, working with its community both as an always on focus-group for product development and giving them Instagrammable moments via its gorgeous packaging, to allow them to share their love for the brand.

Trends to look out for in social
As we look to what’s next, expect to see ever more AI integrated into social media marketing. Intelligent bots will help both automate and monitor post performance and research, freeing up time for bigger creative endeavors. It will power the next wave of social customer care, with smart bots learning customers’ preferences and responding to lower level queries that do not need an in-person response. It is also behind the next wave of visual search; imagine advanced applications such as serving up an offer to a consumer in front of an out-of-home digital screen who has liked the corresponding brand on Facebook.

We have moved into the era of Personal Social. So as in real life, humans are gathering in the spaces and places they feel welcome and connected. One-on-one messaging is an extension of finding safe haven in social networks – the ability to connect with known users, privately and without fear, judgment or trolling. Marketers need to be ready for that and to think ahead when it comes to their own community management, publishing and content creation.

Eight hundred and forty million Chinese consumers use WeChat, which is having an increasing influence on social channels in the West. Expect to see more WeChat features seeping into the messaging apps we use. WeChat launched its Mini Programs earlier this year, which are essentially apps within the platform. Will Facebook go ahead and launch something similar within its Messenger ecosystem?

We live in a camera-first world, with Stories becoming the new news feed for a visual and ephemeral generation. Snapchat is the self anointed leader of that space and we watch to see what the company that brought us Spectacles will do next -- and how quickly the other platforms follow suit. User reaction is also going to be very interesting – do we need Stories in multiple platforms? Will we connect with our favorite clothing brands in each one or broadcast live video in each one? Time will tell.

So yes, social media really has evolved over the past 10 years. The next 10 are going to be even more interesting to behold too. Look out for my 2027 report!

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